THE EDITOR, Sir:
Jamaica, being a highly indebted country, needs all the help and foreign direct investment it can receive from legitimate sources. With this in mind, we welcome the assistance being provided by China in infrastructural development.
However, as a curious researcher who has great respect for Chinese frugality and negotiating prowess, I ask the question, what's in it for Jamaica?
Jamaica is perfectly poised, with easy access to Caribbean, Latin American and North American markets. The fact that we have excellent harbours, relatively competent personnel and equipment to facilitate trans-shipment makes Jamaica a paradise for a major exporting country such as China.
Discerning Jamaicans would have seen a significant influx of Chinese workers all over the island. We must welcome them and treat them with hospitality. However, this influx means that a significant portion of the wages and salaries paid to these workers will be repatriated (sent back home) to China, increasing China's national income. This (i.e., earnings repatriated) forms part of China's GNP. Additionally, the Chinese 'expertise' and imported equipment do not come free of charge.
Again, we have negotiated from a point of desperation to meet the budget deficits and divestment strictures outlined in our loan agreements with the IMF and World Bank.
As a well-thinking Jamaican (a highly overused term), I call upon the Government of Jamaica to negotiate with China in such a way that the quid pro quo favours Jamaica as much as it does China. If Jamaica is to provide trans-shipment facilities to enable China to reach North American, Latin American and Caribbean markets, we must ensure that the economic cost is paid by China.
Emotions and business cannot go hand in hand at the negotiating table. We MUST be objective! Nothing comes free! In our anxiety to receive assistance, let us once and for all do a full cost-benefit analysis and sign to terms and conditions favourable to economic development so our national debt does not keep ballooning out of control. Otherwise, exporters and importers had better prepare themselves to pay the customs and excise duties, fees and charges to the Chinese, who will eventually control our trans-shipment ports.
The Government had better also prepare to reduce and/or delete customs revenues - receipts from fees and charges - from its annual revenue estimates.
By the way, they need to immediately be made aware that the projected revenues to be earned from the Goat Islands development/port, and repatriated to China, will be so significant that it could pay off Jamaica's national debt in five years.
As it has been for the last 51 years, our leaders have chosen to open Jamaica's resources to be exploited by self-serving investors at the country's expense. Can you blame the investors?